ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A Trump administration push for the deportation of Vietnam War-era refugees has sparked protests from St. Paul’s Southeast Asian community, with elected officials and families saying they will do whatever they can to fight it.
State Rep.-elect Kaohly Her called it a betrayal of wartime promise, the Star Tribune reported. She condemned the deportations measure while recalling the bravery of her grandfather, who fought alongside U.S. soldiers before resettling his family in the United States.
“This is not the dream that he fought for,’’ she said at a news conference in St. Paul.
It’s not clear when the deportations could begin, but advocates and community members say they’ve known since a roundup of dozens of Vietnamese Americans last year that the federal government had taken a new posture on their longtime status.
A spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, did not respond when asked about the timeline.
Some 8,705 Vietnamese with deportation orders live in the United States, according to ICE. They’re generally green-card holders who were convicted of crimes, although 858 of them do not have criminal records, the agency said.
It’s not known exactly how many are in Minnesota, but state Democratic Sen. Foung Hawj said his office estimates that nearly 800 Hmong, Laotian, Cambodian and Vietnamese Americans who live in the state are under deportation orders.
The news has shaken Minnesota’s sizable Southeast Asian community, which is home to some 115,000 Hmong, Cambodian, Laotian and Vietnamese. Many of those marked for deportation qualify because of crimes committed decades ago and have already served their time in prison and gone on to start families and build careers, advocates say.
“We believe it is wrong to sentence our family members with life sentences (of) deportation,’’ said Jenny Srey, who organized the Dec. 20 news conference. Her husband was detained in 2016 and targeted for deportation to Cambodia, but supporters successfully fought the effort when a federal immigration judge found that his deportation would cause extreme hardship on his family.